Saturday, January 7, 2017
When one think of museums in Chennai, the first one to come to mind has to be the Government Museum at Egmore, with its fabled bronze gallery. And then, you might recall that there is a museum within Fort St George. If you are a fan of the railways, then you would probably put the Rail Museum at the top of your list. And you may somewhere, in the back of your mind, imagine that there might be some specialised museums, such as those for Ramanujan, or Vivekananda.
A museum for the Public Works Department may not even make your list. But there is one such, inside the PWD Estate in Chepauk. It is a library-and-museum rolled into one, and commemorates the 150th anniversary of the PWD. That dates the museum to 2008, for it was in 1858 that Lord Dalhousie, the Governor General, consolidated various departments into a single PWD in each of the Presidencies. In Madras, it meant the coming together of three major departments: the Maramath department (works relating to irrigation, buildings, waterways, smaller roads and bridges), the Trunk Roads department and the Engineering department. The remit of the Madras Presidency's PWD spread over Tamil Nadu, Malabar, Andhra and into today's Odisha.
Considering that extent, it is surprising that the PWD has been able to fit in 150 years of its history into this rather small, hexagonal building; maybe they haven't been able to get all that organized enough, which may be the reason why this library-museum is almost unknown. There is little indication of the museum hours; that bundled up figure at the top of the steps may be able to guide us, but for the moment, it is unconcerned with our presence!